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A CurtainUp Review

Thank god you're having a birthday because right now, I need a reason, any reason, whatsoever, to celebrate something.
—Jodi, for whom everything has gone wrong (ditched by her husband for a woman more than half his age, one of her children failing all his grades)— begging her father to go along with a 70th birthday celebration he doesn't want.
Idina Menzel and Eli Gelb
being a playwright isn't a walk-in-the-park career. Fortunately some major non-profits have eased the journey for at least some talented unknowns by establishing black box venues to launch fledgling works. But the support doesn't stop there, the Black Box productions are further supported by taking the, to the next level in their larger theaters. Case in point: Joshua Harmon whose first play Bad Jews
premiered in the black box of the Roundabout's Laura Pels Theater, was then given a second production in their larger main stage — and from there went on many more stagings by regional theaters. Harmon became one of the lucky young writers whose talent was indeed given a chance to blossom into a playwriting career.

Harmon's next play, Significant Other opened up right in the larger theater ( review) and then transferred to Broadway (review). I liked it but not quite as much as Bad Jews, or his more recent Admissions, which had its premiere in another distinguished non-profit, Lincoln Center,

With Skintight, Mr. Harmon is back at the Laura Pels with another Jewish family dramedy. The family in this case in the coveted 10% income category, which doesn't mean they're not going to have plenty to disagree and amusingly "kvetch" about.

If fashion guru Calvin Klein's private life weren't already written about, the resemblance to the fashion guru's relationship with a hunky young male model and Skintight's paterfamilias might have been legally risky. Jack Wetherall who plays Elliot Isaac even looks quite a bit like him. Set designer Lauren Helpern has created a Calvin Klein-esque interior for the Greenwich Village townhouse in which the plot unfolds.

That plot is set in motion with the arrival on a red eye flight from Los Angeles by Jodi Isaac (Idina Menzel), to celebrate her father's 70th birthday. But she also wants —in fact, desperately needs— to bask in familial closeness with her father and son Benjamin who's expected on his way home from studying "queer culture" in Hungary. Eli Gelb's Benjamin is actually my favorite character. Though Gelb is new to me he comes off as someone I know since he's a lot like previously encountered Harmon characters),

Jodi's neediness is fuelled by pain and anger after being deserted for a woman more than half his age. by the husband whose failed enterprises she supported for years by "slaving away" in a Law firm In another wound to her ego, he's just invited all her friends to his engagement party.

But Elliot is hardly a touchy-feely dad and, like Jodi, aging is more cause for angst than celebration. He's healing his own depression about aging with Trey (Will Brittain making his Off-Broadway debut), a beautiful 20-year-old live-in boyfriend.

While Jodi knows that her father has had toy boys in his life, they've all been transient. To say she dislikes and mistrusts Trey is to put it mildly. Trey actually seems on the fence about his sexual status, but Benjamin clearly is not. His getting acquainted with Trey further adds to the tension of this unplanned family reunion. Essentially, it's learning to accept this au courant configuration of the Isaac family unit that serves as Skintight's theme.

Harmon knows how to create Jewish angst filled and out-of-joint milieus and populate them with often abrasive characters like Menzel's Jodi. Director Daniel Aukin makes sure that the zingers land and that Lauren Halpern's much used staircase delivers all the intended visual jokes— especially, the ones involving the uniformed Hungarian maid Orsolya (Cynthis Mace).

Harmon has created a thoroughly modern family comedy, and Menzel and her colleagues give committed performances. However, you're unlikely to care much about these character, none of whom will stay with you once you leave the theater. Skintight is just too determinedly provocative, to make a really skin deep impression.

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Skintight by Joshua Harmon
Directed by Daniel Aukin
Cast: Idina Menzel (Jodid Isaac), Jack Wetherall (Elliot Isaac), Will Brttain (Trey), Stephen Carrasco (Jeff), Eli Gelb (Benjamin Cullen), Cynthia Mace (Orsolya)
Sets: Lauren Helpern
Costumes: Jess Goldstein
Lighting: Pat Collins
Original Music and Sound: Eric Shimelonis
Stage Manager: Jill Cordle
Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes, includes 1 intermission
Roundabout Company's Laura Pels Theatre 111 W. 46th Street
From 5/31/18;opens 6/21/18; closing 8/26/18
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at 6/27 press matinee

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